I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with Caroline Paquita on a handful of projects over the past few years: a survey exhibition of her paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture and zines; an accompanying retrospective zine box set; public book-binding workshops; and on the reverse side- with her as publisher of my work. Caroline has been self-publishing since she was 13, evolving from Xerox and photography to screen printing and Risography. While her aesthetic and technique have changed, her passion for self-expression, collaboration and self-publishing has remained a constant driving force. Born in Miami, Caroline studied creative photography and art history at the University of Florida in Gainesville. In addition to her personal art practice, Caroline is a musician and an independent publisher working under the guise Pegacorn Press, a “queer, feminist, total-art-freaker publishing house” that specializes in small-run artists books, comics and zines.
Caroline is among the members at Wayfarers, a shared studio space with a gallery storefront located just off Broadway in Bed-Stuy. I meet up with Caroline the day after tabling with Pegacorn Press at the Brooklyn Zine Fest. Unknowingly, I pack for the picnic Caroline’s least favorite food- lentils. I win over her distaste for bland lentils with an approving “Yumzzzies.”
Caroline Paquita: Yumzzzies. You can quote me on that, it’s spelled with three zees.
Picnic: I can’t believe I made your least favorite food. The beets were the only thing I cooked that catered to your artwork, I was thinking about your pink risograph ink.
C: The extremely expensive and hard to find fluorescent pink.
P: To pick up where we left off- the last thing we worked on together was your retrospective zine box set covering self-published works from 1996 to 2014. First, I want to say congratulations on getting it into one museum and three university collections!
Yes- the University of Miami, Franklin and Marshall College, University of Florida and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Even though I am overly familiar with it, can you explain for the readers what’s in the box set?
Why don’t you tell the readers?! Just kidding! There are thirty publications, the first ten are zines I did between 1996 – 2008. The rest are Pegacorn Press publications, 8 of my own work, and 12 others are projects I worked on with artists- including yourself!- who I liked, wanted to collaborate with and release their work. Everything is also archived digitally, and included on a CD, which was a pain in the ass. We also made a booklet to go along with it. I would recommend people keep notes of all technical details, of size, page count, where you printed it and how you printed it, because researching yourself is a tedious task and feels weird and wrong.
Yeah, especially pre-internet , you can’t just look at your Flickr feed or your blog. I am personally embarrassed of work I made even two years ago, did you at all feel hesitant exposing your teen work to a new audience?
YES. It was very embarrassing. I think it’s awesome that the University of Florida bought it, but I’m also appalled that there is a record of my drinking and other misbehaviors now filed in their library.
You went to school there?
Yeah, Mike [Taylor] and I did. It’s kind of like trapping an essence of a time artistically, really locking it in there.
Literally within the University. That’s funny.
Yeah, it was super embarrassing, I had to get over it a couple years ago- one of my zines from when I was a teenager was shown in the “History of Miami Teen Exhibit.” I had to start getting over it then and to just think – this is a process piece, this is my process – so younger people can look at this and see that they don’t need to be embarrassed making their own work or be embarrassed by self-expression. Now I would go back and edit everything, if I were to do a printed collection of all my work I would highly edit all that out.
That sounds like a cool show, was it in Miami?
Yeah, a group of teenagers curated it, and was all about teens growing up in Miami since people started moving there in the 1920s.
All those early zines, the Brazen Hussy zines, are all Xerox, when did you make that switch from Xerox to Risograph?
In 2008 I used a Risograph for the first time, my roommate kept saying – you have to try this machine, and I was hesitant, thinking these people have money and it’s probably some high-tech machine I can’t afford. I went and used it and it was totally addictive. Then I had dreams about it- how a man going through a mid-life crisis must feel about a car that he really wants. I was having dreams about the Risograph and how it worked, and when I moved to NY I went out to Long Island and bought one from this guy and started messing around with it.
Is it one of those ones?
Yeah that one, it’s the same one. I’ve had several machines in between, but this one keeps on running.
You were doing a lot of screen-printing before then too right? It must’ve been a natural step since the stencil process inside the machine and the outcome is fairly similar?
Yeah I was doing a lot of silk-screening but then I was having problems with carpel tunnel and repetitive stress injuries in my arm, and it hurt to much to do it. Risograph is very satisfying for me because I always wanted to make more than 25 or 50 of something. The process is very similar but you can get so many more.
When did you start working with and publishing other artists?
The first Pegacorn Press publication was officially Future Tense and that was a compilation. I had written to people and put out this broad topic of ‘the future,’ and I realized that I really liked working with folks. It was an extension of other collaborative projects I had done, touring and playing music. I had quit the band I was in, and I think that love for collaboration translated into publishing. It was a way to still have an art practice and still work with people, because as you know, art making can be very solitary. Plus everyone I know is so awesome and creative. Publishing books is not particularly easy financially, I’ve never tried to professionally have a book published because I couldn’t afford to. But having this machinery we can release things in an affordable way that feels good for everybody. So I was thinking how do we release our art and have control over it, decide where it goes, be able give it away for free, and not have to spend a lot of money on a printed object. Does a more expensive and nicer print quality warrant that carbon footprint when you can just print it as cheap as you can? It’s paper it’s going to deteriorate anyway.
Yeah that brings up a point I wanted to talk about, it’s not a question more of a statement, I’m personally drawn to zine making because I see it as a self-contained exhibition, without the pretentiousness of a white-walled gallery show, and that it’s a way to affordably share and disseminate art work & ideas. It also allows anyone with $1-10 to become an art collector, but only really when you’re self-publishing it can you keep the cost so affordable.
In a white-walled gallery space my work does not sell. The amount of time I put into it, if I priced it based on labor, people can’t afford it. So this is a way that I can make art and share with people that like it, and can afford it, and everyone feels good about it. The dynamics don’t change that much, you can buy a print for $5, and look at it every day the same as you can a piece that’s $2000.
Yeah and when you sell one piece of artwork only that person and their friends get to see it.
My background is in photography so I always loved printing more than 5, more than 10, if people wanted them I would just print more. That’s what I loved about photography it’s so easily reproducible. I grew up as a middle schooler thinking that people who did fine art paintings were jerks, because only one rich person gets to own it. It was really stamped into my brain pretty early on. Then you find out about zines and punk and dismantling the hierarchy. Here the art world is the hierarchy. My work doesn’t fit into that, it’s not something I’m striving for- all this coochie art is not Chelsea material, I don’t mind that.
I think Future Tense was the first PP publication I saw, that and your love of collaborating with artists seems like it could have a natural progression to being a basis for an exhibition, have you ever thought about curating shows?
Yeah, I’ve curated art shows and music shows, curating who’s playing with who. I have some ideas where I’m going to do a new complication. I do really like people, introducing people, and seeing what comes out of that, that has nothing to do with me- seeing spin offs of pairing people that might have similar interests, letting them be known to each other. Now I have a new idea!
Are you working on any collaborative publications now?
Yeah a book with Cold Meat, and a new Lesbian Lexicon. I started reaching out to people that I don’t really know, but I admire. I got in touch with Cold Meat from Instagram – and now we’re working on a book.
Stuff from his collection of photography, pornography, illustrations and chapbooks, it’ll be a BDSM fetish book.
Is this his first book?
Yeah, and I’m redoing the Lesbian Lexicon. It’s a dictionary of queer terminology that came out in the early 2000s in Portland and people were losing their shit about it. Three years ago Stv Anntonym sent me her only copy she had left and I sat there and typed up a Google document of every entry and people have been editing and adding to it. Now there is a terminology graveyard of terms people don’t use anymore. It’s been really cool, we’re going to have it released for Pride coming up. She’s going to fly out from SF to print it. There is a release event booked at the Luggage Store Gallery’s Tenderloin National Forest.
The publishing and outreach for Pegacorn Press must take up a lot of time, with tabling the Brooklyn Zine Fest yesterday and MoCCA last weekend, and earlier this year RIPExpo and LA Art Book Fair, am I missing anything?
No, that’s it. I also moderated a panel at RIPE on social and political activism in art.
You are busy! Do you have time to work on any of your own art?
Yeah I’m always working on something, these (empty frames) and I’m working on a new book for Booklyn. Now that I have this stack cutter, I’ve been thinking of all these crazy full bleed projects, with this new tool things can expand. I will think of too many projects, all types of projects, from sculpture to books. I want to do LED stuff and some kinetic style movement with them. Sometimes it just feels like a print shop in here, so I’m excited to experiment more sculpturally. The production end of printing eats up a lot of my studio time. When I started doing the press I had just quit the band, my dad had gotten really sick, and it was about the time I quit working in my sketchbook. I had religiously kept sketchbooks my whole life, and that was a huge feng shui blockage, I haven’t worked in a sketchbook for years now. The press was a way to be tasking and doing things that were creative, keeping busy. Now it’s annoying, which is why I don’t take print jobs.
We didn’t really talk about your studio yet, but how did you get involved with Wayfarers?
Funny you should ask that after asking about curating… when George had opened this spot she was finding people to fit into it, and at that point I couldn’t afford a studio here, but it came up that I could curate a show here, the Essential Hues show. After my last morbid studio spot, the meth den building- a really forlorn 100 sq.ft. room in a really weird space. I was doing a lot of printing in there by myself, the whole scene was nuts. There was a guy living in his studio frying fish all day and my neighbor was smoking crack, we shared an air vent, she would cry and smoke crack, and sleep in there so if I was working at night I was waking her up and she was mad that I was working in my studio. So I asked George about coming here and it finally worked out and I love it. It’s good vibes, I’ve made studio friends, I’ve talked to people about their work that I might not see normally because it’s outside of my punk world. There is a lot of stuff that I don’t know about that you become acquainted with, everyone goes to their own shows and likes different things.
The multiple art worlds.
Yeah and process, I’m always meeting people and even if I don’t necessarily connect with their art I can usually connect with someone’s process. I like that, it keeps me fresh, like “oh shit you’re doing this with epoxy- what the fuck is that?!” You can read about a process on the internet all day, but unless you’re talking to someone using it there’s another disconnect.
That’s all my questions about your art, what else is new with you? You just got a motorcycle for your birthday?
Yeah! What else is going on…. motorcycle for my birthday, I’m going to try and go to Peru to see my little sister, and starting to do tattoo work. Adding to the list of a million things I have and want to do!
Visit www.carolinepaquita.com to view more of Caroline’s work and check out Pegacorn Press to purchase publications. Her retrospective zine box set Ride the Wild Ride: 1996-2014 can be requested in person by visiting the special collections libraries at Franklin & Marshall College, the University of Florida, the University of Miami and on view later this year in a six-month exhibit at the National Museum for Women in the Arts. For new releases & exhibition updates sign up for her mailing list.